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                  for the Frost Scottish Gazette

Is this question clear, simple and nuetral?
“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”
Paul Gilbride - Scottish Daily Express - 10th November 2012

SNP ministers have  formally submitted their preferred independence referendum question for testing despite claims it is biased towards a “yes” response.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, confirmed the SNP would pursue its plan to ask voters: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country.”

She submitted the question to the Electoral Commission, which will now conduct 12 weeks of testing to ensure it is fair and easily understood.

Opposition politicians and some election experts say inclusion of the word “agree” is loaded and encourages voters to think that was the preferable option.

The Commission will set up a series of focus groups, a voter survey by Ipsos Mori and meetings with political parties and outside elections experts for its inquiry.

It will then make recommendations about any changes that it thinks are required – but the final decision will lie with the SNP-dominated Scottish Parliament.

The finalised wording will be included in a Referendum Bill due to be tabled at Holyrood next spring before voters go to the polls in the autumn of 2014.

Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that the independent body’s “considerable expertise” means the vote will meet “highest international standards”. “I have now written to them to formally request that they provide advice and assistance to the Scottish Government by considering the wording of the question,” she said.

John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: “We will now assess the referendum question to see whether voters find it clear, simple and neutral. If it isn’t, we will say what needs to be done.”

In a joint statement the Scottish Tory, Labour and LibDem leaders, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie, called on ministers to “publicly commit” to the commission’s ruling.

“We look forward to hearing the views of the Electoral Commission and we will abide by its ruling,” they said.

See also:
Yes-No vote question snub for unionists
Fears of new referendum question row
Nationalists accuse BBC of imbalance
SNP attacks Coalition as poll row escalates
Alistair Darling backs tax-raising powers
Westminster plot to control referendum

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